Monthly Archives: July 2014

Umea : The City of Birches



Umea : The City of Birches

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Umea, popularly known as the city of birches, is the capital of Northern Sweden. The city, founded in 1622 by King Gustav II Adolf, is the biggest in Norrland and is twelfth largest in Sweden, having a huge population. In 1888, an enormous fire devastated the complete city and hence, was rebuilt with birches planted along the wide avenues to prevent fires from spreading. Umea is a center of education, technical and medical research in Sweden, with two famous universities training over 37000 students. The city has also been elected as European Capital of Culture, 2014.

Geography of the place

 Umea is located on the bay of the Gulf of Bothnia at the mouth of the Umea River, in the south of Vasterbotten and is spread about 600 km, the north of Stockholm and about 400 km, south of the Arctic Circle. It makes the city largest in north of the Stockholm-Uppsala region, and is sometimes referred to as the regional center of northern Sweden. A community of Holmsund situated near the city, servers as its port and from here, and a ferry line goes to the adjoining city of Vaasa in Finland. Because of the near connections to Finland, several Sweden Finns live in Umea too. Umea has a subarctic weather, with short and warm summers. The climate of Umea is subarctic, with short and fairly warm summers. The beach life and boat trips are quite splendid and can drive you crazy and cool. The rafting trips along Sweden’s national rivers, Vindelalven are mind boggling too. Not only in the summers but also in winters, one can enjoy a lot at the place. An ecstatic winter pleasure can be enjoyed by ice fishing on the frozen sea or a lake. Also, the place has many beautiful and pleasant snowmobile routes to explore. One can experience winters to be very lengthy and freezing over here, but it is due to the influence of Gulf Stream.

Education and research at the place

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Umea has been a center of education and training for Sweden. As it have some of the leading comprehensive universities of the nation having over 37000 international and multicultural students and over 4200 teachers and researchers from all over the world. The establishment of Umea university in 1965 has largely affected the population of the city making it 75,645 from 50000 inhabitants and is increasing further every year. The university is Sweden’s fifth oldest university. There are two campuses in Umea university, the main campus is located near the University hospital and where most courses and programs are held and where you can find the University library, administration, restaurants and Europe’s largest sports and fitness training center. The Arts campus is located on the east side of town by the banks of Umea River, hosting the Umea Institute of Design, Umea Academy of Fine Arts and School of Architecture.

Other attractions in Umea

Umea features many entertaining spots with beautiful architectures where one can enjoy a lot.

Umedalen Sculpture Park

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It is one of the Europe’s foremost sculpture parks, architecture by over 150 great Swedish and International artists.  The design of this beautiful park focuses on the contemporary art and demonstrates an antique collection of modern sculptures. One can enjoy with the eight exhibitions held here from September and May having massive outdoor art displays including the finest sculptures and a wide range of graphic prints.

The Tavelsjoleden trail

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This adventurous trail is spread along 39 kilometers and having breathtaking geological treasures: caves, heath with pine trees, valleys, lakes and bogs and then to have a glamorous view of the Tavelsjo community, one can climb one of the highest mountains in the Umea area.

The Elk House

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The Elk House is located to the west of Umea giving a complete educational experience for the kids and adults. The museum is having attractive displays which include the pictures of giant antlers, elks, rock carvings and other interesting finds. Here one can explore things about the elk habitat, what they like to eat. And the best things that can be enjoyed with are the gentle giants and their young in a comfortable enclosed environment.

Holmon Nature Reserve

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The Holmon Nature Reserve comprises of a stoical set of islands off the coasts of Umea. One can entertain himself with the sandy beaches, spruce and birch forests and bird watching on bicycles rented locally.

Some more facts about its culture and tradition

 Umea is famous for many beautiful things, one of them is the Norrland Opera and the other one is the Umea Jazz Festival, which is one of the largest Scandinavian festivals for modern jazz. These festivals are fabulously celebrated at the place with great joy and happiness.

One can also explore eternal art and beauty in the museums of Umea, Bildmuseet-Museum of Contemporary Art and Visual culture, museum of the country of Vasterbotten with Gammlia outdoor museum and Swedish Ski Museum. Umea is the center for cultural activities with films and music festivals. Also, the city is the center for television in Northern Sweden with SVT Nord and TV4’s northern region office situated in the city and the main newspapers of the country named, Vasterbotten are also based in Umea.

Umea is also referred to as the home of heavy metal band Meshuggah, quoted as one of the ten most important hard and heavy bands by the Rolling Stone. There are other precious metal bands in Umea too, which includes, Cult of Luna, Hollow, Persuader and  Nocturnal Rites. In 1990s, Umea’s hardcore scene grew due to the influence of Umea hardcore punk bands such as Final Exit, Step Forward, Refused, Abhinanda and Doughnuts and the local labels like Desperate Fight records and Busted Heads records.

The city is also famous for Ny Vag, and independent record label for releasing internationally known artists like AC4, Masshysteri and Invasionen.

Seoul hot spots: N Seoul tower



Seoul hot spots: N Seoul tower

Seoul’s most happening place is hands down the sky crawling N Seoul also locally called the Namsan tower. The tower that has been functioning as a tourist spot since 1980 stands a charming icon catering to every kind of tourist imaginable. It has woven itself into the cultural experience that the country has to provide for its throng of visitors. N Seoul tower isn’t just a bus or a train ride away. Its a cable car’s drive away! That’s right; standing tall on the lofty Mount Namsan is the city’s most happening place for tourists and locals . Although accessed by plying buses and foot, the cable car ride is part of the whole experience. Stretching sky high, it puts together a number of spots to take selfies from and engaging activities in its arsenal of interesting things.

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A climb up the steep stairs is met with the wooden landing before the actual tower begins. On reaching the tower’s landing, the first thing that hits one is the multitude of colors that seem to pop out of the sides. These baubles that look like frozen butterflies are to our surprise locks with messages hand written on them. The infamous “charm locks” of Namsan are found in this airy open deck with people adding a piece of memory every hour to this modern monument. Rows and rows of fences sit with not a glint of iron to be seen. They are clamped with thousands of colorful and patterned locks, Iphone cases and other items of interest with doodles and messages written on them. It has almost slipped into the Seoul culture as an unconscious tradition, these “lucky charm locks”.

Lines of ink marks the Seoul tower with walkways lined with little post-its in every spatial expanse, on walls pop out boards, and even the ceilings. So, get your markers and leave behind a piece of your thought behind in this tower of wonder. While at it, don’t forget to capture a the view down, from the deck – its one of the best bird’s eye vantage points exhibiting all of Seoul. The wooden landing also stages various performances. The very famous Pungmulnori, a traditional folk show is performed by local artisans for the gathering crowd to feast their eyes on.

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A few paces ahead, a giant ‘N’ perching close to the entrance welcomes everyone with its fluorescent face. Entering through the electronic gates into the tower, what catches the eye is the ease with which people walk in not looking one bit lost. The walls and pillars are all not merely glowing to add to the visual charm but in fact, serve as information dispensers. The high-tech ticket suites are also very helpful with detailed leaflets available in 4 different languages – English, Korean, Japanese and Chinese. It goes without saying that the influx of foreign tourists yearly is impressive given its charm and easy navigation.
Once you’re loaded on ammo (information), you can roam around the perimeter looking for whatever interests them. The electronic signs that read “Teddy Bear Museum”, “Restaurant” and “Souvenir shop” with elevators next to them are a prelude to what’s in store for a tourist.

The teddy bear museum is a place of awe for all children and teddy bear lovers. Every version of teddies with an array of costumes are stationed at different corners. One can also find a selection of these teddy bears to drop inside your shopping cart to take home. The Souvenir shop also helps in that area. Profuse varieties of gifts and trinkets with a hint of beautiful orient Korean patterns are available to bag. The ‘Hancook’ restaurant serves a nice quiet spot for lunch with its pleasant red and beige interspersed interiors and two dozen buffet meals to choose from.

After recharging your batteries, head out to the observatory which is next in list. Placed at a soaring elevation, it is a wide platform with digital high powered telescopes facing its own window panel. These windows as expected of a place so modernly stunning, has controls that can be used to navigate through the city views. This is very popular as a date spot owing to the fact its free of charge to avail the telescope and to enjoy the outstanding city-scape. There’s even an analog observatory with seats to observe the night sky.

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As the saying goes, the best is served for last. In fact it is served on a the finest of wares on a mosaic floor that revolves! The NGrill fine dining restaurant is the cherry on the top – found at the top most deck of the tower. It completes the whole experience with a revolving theme added to it. The entire floor revolves at a pace of 1 hour and 40 minutes. In that time span, the guests would have not only chosen from an eclectic selection of Beef steaks and Fish grills, but also taken a 360 degree panoramic view of the entire Seoul skyline. There’s even a restroom on the top floor which is widely famous for its effusively rich interiors and spectacular views of the city wrapping up a unique experience in such an intimate setting. The sheer work and deco it rooms makes it a place to check out for tourists, funnily enough.

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As the day grows to an end and the night filters in, the roof terrace offers a brilliant vista overlooking reeds of lights shooting out as long stemmed flowers. By inserting a 100 won coin, you can make the lights also stream out as showers for a stretch of time. Those who visit between 7 pm to 12 am in the evening also get to witness the tower’s light shows illuminating the evening sky. A picture may speak a thousand words but the cliche takes a new meaning here. For this monument, speaks in pictures, words and even in different languages to anyone who understands the language of beauty.

Caracas: The Capital City of Venezuela



Caracas: The Capital City of Venezuela

Caracas, the capital and largest city of Venezuela is a beautiful city located right beside Mount Avila. The city is usually not considered to be on the most popular tourist spots in Venezuela and Latin American and it isn’t a rare sight to see tourists skip Caracas when they come to visit the country of Venezuela. But that being said, Caracas does have a lot to offer to any average tourist who plans to visit Venezuela. Like any other big South American city, Caracas also has a great nightlife, amazing food and several tourist attractions.

Things to Do

Aerial view

In a city like Caracas one must always keep in mind that Caracas is in one of the most violent and crime oriented city in the world. The city has a very high crime rate and there are several restrictions placed on tourists from entering specific areas. It is specially suggested that one should be careful during the night time even though the city has a vibrant nightlife.

Another thing worth pointing out is that gasoline prices in the city are quite cheap when compared to the rest of the world (probably because it is a part of OPEC) and thus if you can rent out a bike or car it wouldn’t be considered a bad idea. Talking about the nightlife which Caracas has to offer, a few places like “Las Mercedes” and “La Castellana” districts are quite popular for their night life and it is not rare to see people partying till early morning.

The climate of Caracas is always something worth admiring because it is usually not extreme and is quite comfortable almost all throughout the year. Usually during the summer months the climate ranges from 18˚C (64˚F) to a maximum of 28˚C (82˚F).

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If you are one of those who love hiking or a scenic view then surely Mount Avila is one place which you should visit. The city of Caracas has this mountain as its background almost everywhere and the mountain is visible from every skyscraper in the city. A cable car provides you the ability to travel to the top of the mountain and enjoy the beautiful and scenic view from the mountain. Hiking is also another popular activity which any tourist can enjoy on this mountain. The view from the cable car as well is pretty magnificent, providing a great panoramic view of the city and its periphery. The top of Mount Avila is approximately 2600 meters above sea level. On a clear day one might be able to witness the Caribbean Sea towards the north of the mountain. If you want to try your hand at paragliding then that’s another fun activity which you can indulge in.

Major Attractions

La Plaza Bolivar

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The ‘La Plaza Bolivar’ is located near the Metro Capitolio and is one of the most beautiful political sights in Caracas. Some beautiful colonial architecture from the Spanish times can been seen at this venue and several Congress and other government buildings can also been seen. It also has a few statues of Simon Bolivar.

La Casa Natal de Simon Bolivar

La Casa Natal de Simon Bolivar

Among the long standing list of museums which Caracas has, one of the most popular and the finest museums in Caracas is ‘La Casa Natal de Simon Bolivar’. It is a fairly well preserved building hailing from the colonial era of Venezuela.  Museo Bolivariano is situated right next door and it shows some of Bolivar’s war relics

Bulevar de Sabana Grande

Without a doubt the ‘Bulevar de Sabana Grande’ can be regarded as one of the most popular shopping venues of the city. It has many outdoor and indoor shops. Also there are several restaurants and hotels in this place. It surely is one lively place to visit.

El Hatillo

El Hatillo

Another classic example of colonial architecture which can widely be seen in Caracas. It has several shops, restaurants and bars which cater to the needs of the middle class of Caracas. The place has a decent nightlife and restaurants that are good enough to provide you with lunch. The only trouble associated to this place is that reachability to this place is not so easy because public transport does not have access over here.

Las Mercedes

Regarded as one of the largest districts for shopping and other leisure activities, it is situated as a different district in the capital city of Venezuela. The district has several pubs and discos. The nightlife of this place is fairly popular all around Venezuela and so is the food and other activities. It contains art galleries, fashion stores and restaurants. Restaurants like Malabar and Maute Grill provide exceptionally good food especially wine, though a little expensive but the food is worth the money spent.

Word of Caution

Caracas has a lot to offer to any regular tourist but one surely cannot avoid the fact that the city is very dangerous. The city had a reported 7,676 murders in 2009. Several tourists get mugged by petty criminals in this city and safety measures need to be exercised when visiting this place. It is also advisable to carry a decoy wallet. Corruption, robberies and thefts are some major problems which plague this city.

Above all that Caracas is surely one place worth visiting if you want to feel everything that Venezuela can offer to you.

 

Kaleidoscopic insight to the Mini Portugal,Goa



Kaleidoscopic insight to the Mini Portugal,Goa

Firstly you guys have to keep this in mind, if you really wish to see the real Goa, the one which is just not beaches and booze, though we all like to think of it that way. But, trust me, it’s way lot better and more exciting than that! Now, here’s a list of the few most amazing and hardly-experienced, things you must do, see and eat in Goa, to get the bona fide feel, apart from, of course its pristine beaches and supercalifragilisticexpialidocious booze! And, oh yes! Don’t forget to look out for the Portuguese houses and typical Goan styled name plates or even hoarding boards, while on your drive to the hotel, because it’s truly appealing, and grandly beckons your arrival at Goa.

The DO and SEE-list!

  • Visit the Candolim beach, and halt at a small taverna (bar), for a drink of feni-a locally brewed drink made from cashew or coconut.

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  • Explore a ship-wreck underwater (some 400 years of Portuguese era!)Go scuba diving around the Mormugao harbour, near Grande Island and Bat Island.

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  • Parasailing and Paragliding in Anjuna beach! But, well, this isn’t a movie and this stuff isn’t a piece of cake, so all weak-hearts, step aside, as this might turn out to be more of a day-mare than an adventure!However, despite all the trepidation, this experience is of a lifetime!

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  • If you like a bit of spirituality on the way or simply wish to explore every nook of Portuguese influence in Goa, what better place than the Churches! Now, in this, land housing 160 churches, approximately, it’s hard tell which ones to visit and which to leave. At this juncture of dubiety, here’s a few most popular churches of Goa- Panaji or Panjim Church also known as The Church of Our Lady of Immaculate Conception, Ruins of Church of St. Augustine, and Basilica of Bom Jesus, most of it in Old Goa.

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  • History freak ,architect, artist or simply a romantic, the Museum of Houses is your place! This cute little museum, created by a local architect, Gerard da Cunha is to illuminate it’s visitors of the history of Goan architecture and exhibits a fascinating collection of displays on building practices and the  local and European design unveiled there would surely unravel your insight of the Goan houses!

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 And, what can be more pleasantly surprising, to know that just next door, resides the Mario Gallery, displaying works by one of India’s favourite cartoonists, Mario Miranda. Both these places are at the north of Panaji in the Torda neighbourhood and the best way to get there is to board a Mapusa-bound bus till Okukora Circle, also known as Kokeru,a bumpy rickshaw-ride from there and back and all this will cost you almost ₹100.But if you’re not very comfortable in break-way rides, a taxi or a rickshaw is at your disposal and will cost you some ₹300 one-way.

  • Watch a Tiatr-Goan theatre in Konkani, also known as Nataks in Marathi.
  • Shop at the Antique and Flea Markets-Wednesday Flea Market near Anjuna Beach, 18 Kms from Panaji (11:00 am till sunset), Arpora Saturday Night Bazar near Anjuna Beach (7:00pm till early morning), and Mapusa Market, in Mapusa, North Goa (8 am- 6:30 pm).Don’t forget to bargain to the exact half price they say, or even less, and then according to its worth raise the bar slowly!

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  • Finally, end your Goa tour with a visit to the NGO, Children Walking Tall (www.ChildrenWalkingTall.com) and experience the unperturbed bliss of innocence with the kids at the shelter hope. You can take some clothes, towels, toys, chocolates anything along with you as gifts for the kids!

Authentic Goan Eateries in Goa!

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  • VENITE, Panjim (31st January Road, St. Tome Chapel, Panaji, Goa, 403001 Landmark: Near General Post Office)-with charming graffiti on the walls and lamps made out of coconut shells, the place provides an outstanding ambience. Try the mushroom pepper fry and banana-caramel ice-cream,spiced sausages and vegetable vindaloo there.
  • BHATTI VILLAGE (Bhatti Vaddo, Nerul, Goa, 403114, Landmark: Near the Sol Hotel)-It’s a typical homely Goan restaurant, hosted by a Goan family!

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  • MUM’S KITCHEN (854, Martin’s Building, D B Street, Miramar, Goa, 403001, Landmark: Near Times of India Office)-A bit high on the budget but has a breath-taking earthy ambiance, complete with a koi pond and a rustic bar and of course soul-quenching food! Try salted pork, Harem mass, and Almeachim Xacuti, here.

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  • LA FAYETTE, Chorao Island-This place might not be very known as it’s just a home cum restaurant hosted by an old lady but if you wish to get the feel of lunching on authentic Goan food made by your very own Goan grandma, in an old, withered yet welcoming house with a serene ambience under the sky of canopied coconut trees, then this is your place! Chat along with grandma while munching on extremely delicious Goan egg curry with poi (Goan bread) and beer, of course!

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  • ANDRON, Nachinola-Run by a retired navy-officer, this is a great place for having authentic Goan non-veg food under the dome shaped hut surrounded by yellow walls painted with scenes of village life!

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  • Benjoe Rail Restaurant(Railway Station, Margaon, Goa – 403601)- “Where there is humour I will do a cartoon. But when I do structures, I don’t do cartoons… I enjoy drawing much more than cartooning.”- Mario Miranda. Adorned with internationally acclaimed Mario’s sketches the walls of this restaurant speaks volumes about Goa’s day to day life, in the most exciting way! Hop in to this stop to experience this arty-ambience in the company of some mouthwatering delicacies!

The EAT-List

Once in Goa, you have to try at least some of these!

Hindu cuisines

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  • Fish curry known as ‘Human’ (in Konkani), and rice, also known as Kadi or Ambot.
  • Dhabdhabit or Fish Suke- Dry spicy preparation of fish, eaten as a side dish.

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  • Kismur– A type of side dish normally consisting of dried fish (mostly mackerel or shrimp), onions and coconut.

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  • Tondak-curry made with cashew, beans, etc. Try it with poi!

kadi

  • Solachi Kadi-zesty curry made of Kokum and coconut

Catholic cuisines

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  • Arroz doce-Portuguese alternative of kheer.

Beef ambot tik

  • Ambot tik-sour curry with meat/fish.
  • Canja de galinha- A type of chicken broth served with rice and chicken, and is originally a Goan recipe.

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  • Xacuti-Goan curry with shredded coconut, and chicken/beef.

Chorizo-and-Pork-Vindaloo

  • Vindaloo-a spicy Portuguese-Goan curry, a HAVE-TO try. Don’t worry it’s unrelated to potatoes or ‘aloo’. Try and lemme know!

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  • Croquettes – Beef cutlets and beef potato chop that are common snacks

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  • Bibik or Bebinca– A layered pudding traditionally eaten at Christmas.

In spite of being one of the most visited holiday destinations,especially in India, travellers and tourists often fail to experience the true Goa, in the midst of the razzmatazz life on the beach. So plunge out of the known, much commercialized tour of Goa, hop on a public transit and get lost in the frolic air of Goa! A doce Vida!

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Zion National Park, Utah, USA



Zion National Park, Utah, USA

Zion lodge

Zion National Park,Utah,USA

Zion National Park,Utah,USA

Zion is the oldest national park in Utah and is well known for its spectacular canyons  and its breath taking views.It is one of the most visited national park in the world.It is named as the ‘Promised Land’ as it has an amazing landscapes and the best hiking which we may not forget in our lifetime.It is visited  by tourists in a count of 3 millions every year approximately.This park reveals its 8 layers of sandstone,which displas the oldest carves .It is really an enchanting place with long towering cliffs,deep red canyons.It is famous for its peaks which are unique.

Zion National Park

Zion National Park

How to reach:

location of Zion

location of Zion

Zion National Park is located near st.George and Springdale Utah which is 30 miles length and 15 miles wider,discovered in 1919.It is situated in the southwest corner of the Utah in Washington precisely.

How the history originated:

Zion’s first native people, Anazari people, who are invisible were travelling through camels and spotted this path .At that time due to the climatic conditions the animals died,but humans began to adapt to it and tuned their lifestyle.

The grave of Isaac Behunin

The grave of Isaac Behunin

The first permanent human in this place is an European-American named Isaac Behunin who built a one room log cabin which is near the present Zion lodge in 1861.Later on,many came to settle here and settled some farms here and began cultivation.

President William Howard, in the year 1909 signed a proclamation to protect Zion Canyon and its surrounding areas from where the development of roads,expansions,the status of National Park started.Slowly,it became into tourist place when the transport level to this place has been improved.They spent millions to improve this area for this wonderful landscape which is worth for it.

What to do:

Zion National Park contains a wide variety of ecosystems which is an amazing view to the tourists.It consists of different varieties of vegetations in this park.

Zion Canyon Visitor Center

Zion Canyon Visitor Center

Zion Canyon visitor center is the first stop which provides an mesmerizing experience which features the scenery and trails of the park with its length and adventurous trips.Through this,visitors can choose what they want to do.This is just like a menu serving people to choose what is best for them instead of thriving later and they can choose how much amount they can spend and how much time they can enjoy here.It is just an tourist friendly interaction

hiking in Zion

hiking in Zion

This landscape is known for its hiking which are very unique.You can take a hiking trip to the Canyon which is very frightening and also you can hike to a number of waterfalls over there.In summer ,most people hike directly to rivers as their wish.The best and frightful hike is the one to Angels.Hiking has become famous as the bottom up view is really amazing.

Exploring the park

Exploring the park

The elevations ranges from 4000 to 8700 feet which most people use to backpacking  and we can go camping which is also a great adventure in this park.

Zion lodge

Zion lodge

Zion Canyon  is a place where we have a Zion lodge which is the only one present in the park boundaries.The lodge has a beautiful scenery with its lawn and is an amazing spot to go for a picnic.It is just a combination of ancient architecture and stone towers.The lodge has two restaurants ,rest rooms and even a gift shop.

Life in Zion:

Zion consists an unique collection of species of animals and plants.There are 67 species of mammals,13 species of snakes,291 species of birds,900 species of plants and about 4 species of native fishes which are preserved in this park.

Virgin Spinedace

Virgin Spinedace

The mammals present here are Mountain-lions,ring-tailed cats,mule deer and bighorn sheep.The bird species includes blue grouses,wild turkeys,spotted owls ,bald eagles and peregrine falcons.The unique fish  species which is found nowhere but here is the

mule deer

mule deer

Climate:

Weather is the most important factor in Zion area as it is tremendously dangerous mainly near sharped cliffs as they may slid and heavy water flooding areas as they may effect with storms and flash floods.The climate is fine in summer months but if you insist on going in colder months,you need to take extra care and special precautions to take this adventurous trip.

Subway of Zion:

The Subway is the famous part which separates the amazing Canyon of the Left Fork of North Creek.The route starts at the Wildcat Canyon Trail head and descends to the Left Fork through a cross-country route that crosses Russell Gulch,It walks out a ridge and descends a steep gully.

THE SUBWAY, ZION NATIONAL PARK

THE SUBWAY, ZION NATIONAL PARK

The people who are interested in doing canyoneering wont leave the Subway.It is just a great and very adventurous consideration with its semi-technical route.The stream of water is the trial for most of the route.Some streams are deep enough to swim in this subway.This is mostly done from top-down as bottom-up is too risky.Also hiking in the subway is allowed through permits obtained by park website and any park visitor center .

 

 

The Forbidden City – Palace of the Emperors



The Forbidden City – Palace of the Emperors

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Throughout their history Chinese have been known to be able to create thing which were larger than life such as paper, the Great Wall of China among others and among those creations the Forbidden City of Beijing is perhaps one of their greatest creations. The Forbidden City or Palace is the English name of the palace located in the dead center of China’s capital Beijing. A center of Chinese Empire’s economic and political power, the palace served as a beautiful abode for more than 24 emperors who ruled the lands from the 14th century till the 20th century. It is one of the biggest buildings in China being spread over 720,000 meter square comprising of 990 buildings each intricately built, designed and decorated keeping in mind the traditions of Chinese architecture and culture. The power center of Chinese influence on East Asia the Forbidden City was a mammoth reminder to outsiders of China’s might. The palace was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1987 and was converted into a Palace Museum in 1925.

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On the occasion of Zhu Di becoming the Emperor after the establishment of the Ming Dynasty he ordered the construction of a grand palace in 1406, the construction of the palace continued on for fourteen years with the help of over a millions laborers and artisans. Upon its opening in 1420, it became the center of power of the Chinese Empire under the flagship of the Ming Dynasty who ruled the premises till 1644. In 1644, the Ming emperor was ousted by the rebel forces of Li Zicheng who proclaimed himself the ruler of China soon after. His army was then defeated by the combined forces of the former Ming General and the Manchus who were successful in defeating the rebel forces. Upon their victory the Manchus took the reins at the Forbidden City and declared themselves the rulers under the Qing Dynasty. For the coming two centuries, the palace became the center of power and politics in China with the Emperor demonstrating his influence over the lands through the giant walls of the Forbidden City.

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During the attacks by the Imperial forces of the European Empires on China, the Anglo-French forces took control of the Palace during the Second Opium War till the end of the war. In 1900, the then empress Dowager Cixi fled the City when attacked by the rebel forces during the Boxer rebellion. The Palace finally seized to be the center of power in China after the fall the last Chinese emperor Puyi who was ousted from power post the establishment of the Republic of China. In 1925, the Forbidden City was finally retired from serving the Emperors of China and converted into a Palace Museum. The museum was soon turned into the largest collection of artifacts belonging to the Qing and Ming Dynasty and became a place for the preservation of Chinese heritage and culture. During the Second World War, the Republican Revolution of 1949 and the Cultural Revolution the Forbidden City suffered a lot of damage. The Government of China since then has taken upon itself to restore the Palace to its erstwhile glory.

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The numbers related to the Forbidden City are just staggering; the Palace is rectangular in shape measuring 963 meters from north to south and 753 meters from east to west surrounded by giant walls from all corners which measure to the height of 7.9 meters and being 8.62 meters wide at the base rising up to a width of 6.66 meters at the top. Within its premises the City has around 980 surviving buildings which together have some 8886 rooms. At each of the four corners of the Palace stand mammoth towers which over look the imperial city of Beijing and are a big part of the folklore of the city. Each of the four walls is pierced by giant gates with the north being called ‘Gate of Divine Might’, the south ‘The Meridian Gate’, east ‘The East Glorious Gate and the west ‘West Glorious gate. Traditionally, the Forbidden City has been divided into two parts namely the Inner Court and the Outer Court. The Inner Court was the private premises of the King where the King and his family resided along with the day-to-day state functions also being performed from here. The Outer Court was meant for public ceremonies and celebrations.

forbidden3

The Forbidden City is a landmark of Chinese history on par with the Great Wall of China, today it s the site of the largest conservation effort of Chinese history in the form of the Palace Museum which has been able to protect the many artifacts that belonged to the Palace, the interior of the Palace which consists of many famous paintings depicting the life and times of the Ming and Qing Dynasties and also other artifacts which have been collected from different eras in Chinese history.  The Museum has the largest collection of paintings in China totally to a staggering 55000 and also many collection belonging to ancient China. The Forbidden City is a great example of Chinese imagination, ability, architecture and foresight.

Culture and Architecture: Centre Pompidou, Paris



Culture and Architecture: Centre Pompidou, Paris

centreParis has always been known for its culture and architectural heritage work. One of them is the Centre Georges Pompidou which is also known as the Pompidou Centre. It is a complex in the Beaubourg area of Paris in the 4th arrondissement which falls near les Halles, Rue Montorgueil and the Marais. This architecture was designed in the style of high tech architectural structure.

designDue to the location of the structure it is locally also known as Beaubourg. It is named after the President of France, Georges Pompidou but it was officially opened by President Valery Giscard d’Estaing on 31st January 1977. There have been more than 150 million visitors to the Centre Pompidou since 1977.

Centre PompidouThere is this sculpture which is placed horizontal by Alexander Calder in front of the Centre Pompidou permanently which is twenty five feet high and is placed by the architects Richard Rogers and Renzo Piano. The construction of the glass and metal building in the centrally located Beaubourg was opposed and was into opposition by many people and the idea was even disliked as it was kind of an oil refinery in a historic district. But as the museum was inaugurated in 1977 it became an instantaneous hit and an instant success story. The original design had the capacity of accommodating 5,000 visitors per day but the Pompidou Centre has been welcoming almost over 25,000 visitors per day which makes it one of the best attraction and the most visited place in Paris.

centre-pompidou The French President wanted an ultra-contemporary artistic hub to be constructed in the heart of Paris and the two architects constructed it so beautifully inside out that the observers are still thrilled to admire it with utilitarian features such as plumbing pipes, air vents and electrical cables which makes the forming part of the external view of the sculpture. The pipes fussed and ducts are all color coded which represents blue for air, green for water, red for elevators, yellow for electricity, grey for corridors and white for the building itself. Freeing up the interior space for exhibitions and events to be held in here has made this phenomenon construction has amazed the visitors of Paris’ premier cultural Centre.

paris-museums-pompidouThe Centre Pompidou turns out be the home to the world’s most important museums of modern art, MNAM which contains a very popular library, a bookshop, a movie theater and a panoramic terrace which are the most famous attractions. Architecture comprises of a vast library for the public named Bibliotheque Publique d’information which is known as the public information library which takes up the first, second and the third floors. It is also known as Bpi which boosts a total collection of more than 4,50,000 books, 2,600 magazines and a large number of new media items are displayed in the library. Even there are cinemas and other entertainment venues located on the first floor and in the basement of the architecture and even there is presence of temporary exhibitions and information desks available.

ccThe fourth and the fifth floor consists of Musee National d’Art Morene which is the largest museum for modern art in the entire Europe which is situated in Paris. Around 65,000 and more works by 5,700 artists have been displayed in this museum which includes the work of the surrealists and cubists as well as pop art contemporary works are showcased in this museum. The work on the fourth floor id from the year 1905 to 1065 and even covers art movements such as fauvism, abstract art, surrealism and cubist art and the featured artists include Matisse, Kadinsky, Miro and Picasso. The fifth floor covers the work after the year 1965 which includes the pop art movement and the figurative art to it. The sixth floor has two galleries for chic exhibitions which would be held on temporary bases. There is a hyper industrial restaurant situated on the same floor named Georges which views the panoramic site of Paris and it is accessed by a free lift or elevator.centre-pompidou libraryThe museum in here has a great collection of Modern as well as contemporary art due to which it is well set out with works displayed in chronological order. They also have a great range of art form from all around the world and it is interesting to admire different styles which have been dominating in the different parts of the world. The museum has an overall and a very useful information on each art movement displayed and a handy overview.

IRCAM which is a Centre for music and acoustic research. Rooftop admission is included in museum and exhibition for which one has to buy a panorama ticket in order to land on the roof. The admissions and enter to the museum id free on the first Sunday of each month so it is obvious that the maximum number of visitors would be sighted on this Sundays.

cp mimecp fountain

Not only inside the Centre but even outside there is a lot to observe. On the west of the Centre nearby pedestrian streets there are attractions of buskers, musicians, jugglers and mime artists to entertain and attract the visitors. Whereas in the southern side of the Centre there is Igor Stravinsky which are the fanciful mechanical fountains of skeletons, hearts, treble clefs and a big pair of ruby red lips which have been created by the architects Jean Tinguely and Niki de Saint Phalle.

Of Spain and Spanish Delicacy: Churros



Of Spain and Spanish Delicacy: Churros

churros

Churros conned by chocolate dip is a perfect traditional Spanish treat. Churros is a deep fried sweet treat, served in breakfast, snacks or even desserts. It’s a perfect relish for people having a sweet tooth.

Churro is a deep fried dough pastry. They are long star shaped, just like bread sticks. Served hot with the different variations of dipping , mostly chocolate. Pastry, doughnut and chocolate lovers gets a different experience of savoring this sweet relish as it is served hot and has to be dunked in different dips. The touch of cinnamon sugar sprinkled all over the churros, makes it look more tempting and the hot delicacy thus melts in the mouth. It is crispy from out, soft from within and is just perfect with thick melted chocolate.

There are number of stories about the origin of churros including the one that has them imported by the portugese from china and another that claims they were first made by Spanish shephards. Though, the origin of churros is still not clear. It is said that, centuries ago, Spanish shephards used to make churros while tending churra sheep high in the mountains. Because they did not have many cooking supplies, they needed to come up with a food that could be easily put together and cooked with a mere pan and oil. Churros were named after the churra sheep because the pastry resembled the sheep’s horns. Churros are made of the wheat flour, the shephards would roll out a length and fry it in a pan over an open fire. Firstly it was like a breadstick in shape and size and slowly it evolved as a star shaped pastry. After cooking, shephards would eat it plain or roll it in cinnamon sugar. As its popularity grew, the shape of churros began to evolve. Using a churrera, an extruder with a star tipped, churro makers now create a star shaped length of dough rather than the tradition breadstick shape. Additionally, churros are now being served with all types of fillings, from chocolate to jams and custards. Mostly it is served with thick delicious chocolate sauce. The churros are served hot with an accoutrement of caster sugar in saucers and long tumblers full of dessert thick chocolate, not for drinking but dunking and eating.

churros under process     mechanism of churros

Mechanism of churros is very interesting and fascinating. Churro making device is commonly made of plastic or metal, it is known as churreras and has different types of attachments. The made up dough is put into the tube, the top properly fitted and screwed down and you are all set to deep fry the churros. When it is bronzed all over, it is removed from hot oil and then rolled in to sugar, of which cinnamon sugar is the most common and thus it is served hot with melted chocolate, jams or any other sweet combination. The process of churro making is very fascinating to watch and since it is served hot you can get to watch the procedure before relishing them.

types of churrosChurros is also known as Spanish doughnuts. There are various types of churros and its dip.  The most known and common type of churro is long, thick and the knotted style of churros.  Types of churros varies according to different countries. Guava- filled churros is also one of its type. Chocolate-filled, jelly-filled churros with ice-creams and with whipped cream are also few interesting types of churros. The sugar powder rolled over the churros also has variations. Cinnamon sugar is the original and most popular and others are cinnamon and rose sugar, yuzu sugar and cardoman sugar. There are many other different variations all over the world. Variation in dips also goes from chocolate dip, most common one to tamarind sauce and spicy chocolate the uncommon ones.

Churros and chocolate, delightful Spanish combo could be found in cities and cafes all over the world. In countries like Spain, France, latin America, Portugal and the United States it has gained more popularity. You can find many outlets in Australia also, which provide churros and very few in India. In countries like spain and America, churros are so common and popular that it’s a common street food and easily found on the streets, parks etc. From street vendors to fine restaurants, people of all nationalities and walks of life enjoy churros.churros on street

In few countries, churros are known by some different names. In India similar churro shape stick is known as chakli, though made with rice flour and is spicy and has other added spices and flavours.

There are many good restaurants serving churros all over the world, just like La Pallaresa and La Granja Chocolate restaurants and café in Barcelona. Chocolateria San Churros, in Australia and India also serves the Spanish treat.  Don churro café is a unique south American restaurant serving perfect churros. Le churro restaurant in New York is also one of the most rated restaurants serving finest churros. Churros calientes in los angeles, la palma in Miami also serves the delicious churros. There are many restaurants in spain where churros are easily available throughout the day and also available on the streets

One having a sweeth tooth n fond of chocolates and who loves to explore variations in food one must definitely try these mouth watering churros!

churros con chocolate

The Yellowstone National Park, USA



The Yellowstone National Park, USA

Yellowstone national park

Yellowstone National Park is a park located in USA. It is one of the oldest, biggest and most famous national parks in USA. It was also recognized as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1978. This park is spread over to 3,472 square miles majorly in the state of Wyoming but with some portions of it extending to the state of Idaho and Montana comprising of lakes, rivers, canyons and mountain ranges.

This park was established in 1872 to protect the vast number of geysers, hot springs, thermal areas as well as the incredible wildlife in this region. On 1st of March, 1872 this park became the first National park reserve declared anywhere in the world. More than half of the world’s geothermal features are in the Yellowstone Park. There are more than 300 geysers to be found here which is two third of the number of geysers found in the entire world. There are about 10,000 thermal features comprising the colored hot springs, steaming fumaroles, bubbling mud pots.

Flora and Fauna

Yellowstone is home to a large number of wild animals and birds. It has one of the largest intact temperate zone ecosystems that are remaining on the planet. This is the reason why it is home to a large number of wildlife. There are 67 types of mammals to be found here including the black bears and grizzly bears. There are about 100 gray wolves in the park. Also animals like the elk, bison, mule deer, pronghorn, bighorn sheep, white-tailed deer and moose live here. Wolverine and lynx that require large areas of land and an undisturbed habitat are to be found in the park. There are many other numerous small mammals found in the park.

elk

Birds are also easily seen in the park. There are about 330 species of birds to be found here out of which around 148 species nest in the park. There are around 18 species of fishes in the park. Though, there are not many reptiles to be found in the park due to the glacial activity and current cool and dry conditions. Also there are large varieties of plants and trees. It is home to more than 1,350 species of plants.

Things to Do

The famous West Entrance to the park is parallel to the Madison River. This entrance takes you to the Grand Loop Road which will further take you to all the major features of the park. When you travel south on the Grand Loop Road towards Old faithful, there is a side road that will take you to Firehole River which is the most area in the Yellowstone. There are many thermal basins on this route the first being lower Geyser Basin. On this road there is also the famous Fountain Paint Pot where pools of colourful hot mud bubble and sputter out. This mud is a mixture of water clay and silica. Here, there is an 800 foot canyon through which the water pours forming the Firehole Falls.

Firehole Falls

The two basins namely Midway and Biscuit and Black Sand basin lie adjacent to each other and the Firehole River serves as a common boundary to this. The runoff from many geysers in these basins drains into the Firehole River. Grand Prismatic Spring is the most stunning feature at the Midway basin. If seen from above the splendid array of deep colours are visible. And it is also the largest spring in Yellowstone. There are clearly marked boardwalks and trails are paved for visitors to explore the thermal features of Midway Basin.

Grand Prismatic Spring

Cliff Geyser at the Black Sand Geyser Basin is very interesting as it sits at the edge of Iron Spring Creek. The eruptions of this Geyser go as high as 50 feet. Rainbow Pool is a large hot spring which has an extremely blue centre. The water at this hot spring is cooled enough to allow the growth of algae which produces a rainbow of colours.

rainbow pool

Your visit to Yellowstone would be incomplete without seeing one or more eruptions of Old Faithful Geyser. This Geyser is famous in the world and one of the greatest natural wonder of America. There are geysers here that erupt very high and for long period of time. And these geysers are very powerful combined with Old Faithful’s innate beauty. This view once witnessed is to remain forever in your memory.

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In addition to the various thermal features and the beautiful mountain scenery, the park also has many wild animals. Visitors get an opportunity to view the wildlife in the park and photograph it too. This makes Yellowstone definitely a photographer’s paradise. One can also come here backpacking once the permit is obtained and can stay for one to three nights. Swimming is allowed too at the Firehole Cascades swimming area which is warmed by the Hot springs. There are some areas where fishing is allowed but a permit is required for that. One can also go boating and can enjoy a horseback ride here. As there are many mountains here one can also go hiking and enjoy the beautiful scenic view from the top of the mountains. Thus, Yellowstone offers a scenic natural beauty with a wide variety of thermal features and wildlife making it a must visit for nature lovers.

Venezuela-Beauty Along the Carribean



Venezuela-Beauty Along the Carribean

Officially referred to as the Bolivian Republic of Venezuela, Venezuela is a country on the northern coast of South America. The biosphere of Venezuela is extremely diverse with wide varieties of flora and fauna and habitats including the Andes Mountains, Amazon Rainforest, plains of Illinois, Orinoco River delta and the Caribbean Coast.

The country was first colonized by Spain in 1522 and was also the first Spanish American colony to declare independence. The country was dominated by dictatorships in the 19th centuries like other countries of South America. The country has had democratic governments since 1958.

Venezuela is the most urbanized countries in South America and a leading exporter of oil. The country also exports coffee and cocoa.

Regarding tourism Venezuela is home to the most beautiful tourist attractions of the world. It is a perfect potpourri of scenic beauty, art, culture and food. Some of the best tourist attractions of the country are:

Angel Falls

Angel falls

Let us begin with the largest waterfall in the world. It is unarguably the most popular tourist destination in Venezuela. Angel falls has a free falling drop of 979 metres. Think Niagara Falls and then think fifteen times of it and you will be able to picture Angel Falls.

Angel Falls is located in Canaima National Park in Bolivar state, an approximate 3000km from Caracas, the capital of Venezuela. The place gets its name from James Angel who tried to land a plane near it which actually sunk into the marshy ground. They had to travel through the jungle for eleven days to find civilization. The forest around is rich in flora and fauna. One can expect to see the poison arrow frog, pumas, jaguars, three toed sloths, otters and various species of orchids.

La Isla Margarita

Margarita

It is situated north of the Venezuelan coastline. The pure clear water and a picturesque view of the coastline is what La Isla Margarita has to offer. It is a perfect example of natural beauty. La Isla Margarita is called “Pearl of the Caribbean.” There are beautiful white sandy beaches which offer a perfect opportunity to get a tan. Windsurfing, diving and snorkelling are popular activities in the area.

Pico Bolivar

Picobolivar

Pico Bolivar is considered to be the most beautiful and serene places in the world. It is a perfect setting in the lap of nature. It is 4,765 metres high and is located in the north-eastern part of The Greater Andes.

Mochima National Park

Mochima

It is in the state of Sucre and Anzoategui. It occupies a huge area of coastal and marine habitat in the Mochima Bay. It is mainly made up of mangroves, mountainous coastlines and sandy coves. Dense shrubs, trees and grasses are scattered all over this dry terrain. It also houses 28 species of reptiles and 78 species of mammals.

Roraima

mount roraima

Roraima is the place that inspired Arthur Conan Doyle’s Lost World. However the place is not inhabited by dinosaurs as mentioned in the book but a wide variety of flora and fauna have made it their habitat. You’ll also be able to explore some of the world’s oldest geological formations.

Los Llanos

Lllansos

As mentioned before the Venezuela isn’t all hills and beaches but also has plains. You can witness cowboys riding the plains of Los Llanos. The plains are home to the green anaconda and 50 other species of mammals and reptiles.

Let’s talk about food now. Venezuela has the same diversity in its cuisine as it has in its culture and geography. The cuisine has both indigenous and European influences. The staple food includes corn, rice, plantain, yams, beans and meat.  Potatoes, tomatoes, eggplants, onions, squashes and zucchini work as delicious sides.

In the eastern, south-eastern and northern states there is a dominance of seafood such as fishes and crustaceans.   The use of tubers such as potato and yam is also abundant. Pasta is extremely popular making Venezuela the second highest Pasta consumers in the world after Italy. Corn and rice is also commonly consumed. Fruits such as lettuce, tomatoes and plantain are also widely consumed. In the west goat and rabbit meat are widely consumed. Cheese and plantain is commonly used. The cuisine in the west is influenced by Columbian and indigenous styles.  In the plains of Llanos beef, deer, lapa and morrocoy meat is consumed. They are mainly grilled or roasted. Other foods that are commonly consumed are corn and white cheese. In the Andes there is a remarkable use of tubers such as potato and yam. Wheat, beef, chicken and lamb is also commonly consumed. There is not much seafood as it is not along any coast, however trout is commonly consumed which is raised in the fish farms in the region.

Some of the delicious dishes to savour include:

  • Cachapa-Maize Pancakes
  • Caraotas Negras-Black Beans
  • Pasticho-Venezuelan style of lasagna
  • Tostones

Some other things that you can do in Venezuela are:

Caribbean Horseback Riding

On the La Isla Margarita, you can discover the whole island on the back of a horse. You can ride through the beaches and the mountains.

Cave Hiking

Cueva Del Guacharo was the first national Venezuelan monument. The limestone cave is located at the centre of the park and hiking it offers the opportunities to explore various rock formations and you can see oilbirds during the night.

Venezuela is a perfect blend of beauty, culture and aesthetics. One must visit Venezuela atleast once during a lifetime.